The World Health Organization (WHO) announced this week that Malawi became the first country [tohaveimmunizedchildrenagainstMalariain1945900replacingtheWHOstatementthatusedthecountry'sonlyapprovedvaccinetoprotect the widespread disease .
According to the Associated Press, the vaccine protects about one third of the children who receive it. Those who get the shots probably have a less severe case of malaria.
The disease kills approximately 435,000 people each year. In Africa, most of the victims are children under the age of five.
"This is an incomplete vaccine, but it still has the potential to save tens of thousands of lives," states Alister Craig. He is at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine in the UK. He added that immunizing the most vulnerable children in times of high malaria disease could prevent thousands from getting sick or even dying.
Craig is not bound by the malaria vaccine or the WHO.
The vaccine, known as Mosquirix, is a product of the British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline. It was approved in 201
A previous test showed that the vaccine was about 30 percent effective in children who received four shots, but this protection diminished over time. The reported side effects include pain, high body temperatures, and severe shaking.
Pedro Alonso leads the malaria program of the WHO. He says that similar vaccination programs will start in Kenya and Ghana in the coming weeks. The goal is to vaccinate around 360,000 children in the three countries each year.
Alonso called the vaccination campaign a historic moment . "He found that designing a vaccine against a parasite – an organism that lives in one or another organism – is much harder than a bacterium or virus.
Alonso admitted that the malaria vaccine has problems. He said, however, that the world could no longer wait for a better version.
"We do not know how long it will take to develop the next-generation vaccine," he said. "It can be many, many years away."
He said slowed progress against malaria now requires new tools. Against drugs that treat the disease, the resistance grows. And mosquitoes become more resistant to insecticides. Moreover, the money to fight malaria has not increased in recent years.
It took more than 30 years for GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and its partners to develop the vaccine for around $ 1 billion. A company spokesperson said GSK is working with partners to raise money for even bigger vaccination programs.
Some experts say the vaccine should not be diverted from other efforts that do not offer costly, proven ways to reduce malaria. They mention examples such as the use of bed nets for sleeping areas and insecticidal products.
"This is a brave thing, but it's not a miracle weapon," said Thomas Churcher, malaria expert at Imperial College London. A "silver bullet" is too simple and immediate a response to a complex problem.
Churcher added, "As long as the vaccine does not interfere with other efforts, this is a good idea. What to do. "
Alister Craig noted that one difficulty could be persuading parents to bring their children for repeated doses of a vaccine protecting only one-third of children – for a limited time  More than 90 percent of more common vaccines, such as those for polio and measles.
"This malaria vaccine will save many lives, even if it is not as good as we would like," Craig said. "But I hope this will trigger other research efforts so that the story does not end here."
I'm Anna Matteo.
The Associated Press reported on this story. Ashley Thompson has adapted it for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the publisher.
Words in this story
immunize – v. To give (to someone) a vaccine to prevent infection by disease
Mosquito 19459004 – n. A small flying insect that bites the skin of humans and animals and sucks their blood
Moment – n. A very short time
dose – n. The amount of a drug, drug or vitamin that is taken at once